He woke with a gasp. It was sudden. Like being dunked in ice water, the beeping drone of a heart monitor loud in his skull.
His heart was pounding in his chest, thundering his blood through his veins until it was all he could hear.
His vision swam, a blur of colors and light, too much light.
He hears a voice...her voice. Somewhere, its distant, or perhaps she's close? He's not sure.
He's trying to breathe, but he cant.
Something...something on his face.
Is it his mask? He reaches, barely feeling his limb responding.
He hears J'hon's voice, hears it in his head more than his ears, sees glowing orange eyes looming over him a second later before its lost in an ocean of swimming colors, white, blue, green, colors everywhere, and too much light.
J'hon's calling him. Calling him but he wonders where Diana is. He heard her voice before...he knows he did.
He got her out.
He must have.
He wouldn't have left without her.
He tries to talk...to think. J'hon would hear him thinking, but he can't. His mind is muddled, his thoughts disjointed and hazed.
But he wants to know. Wants to make sure...He wants to ask, but he can't, whatever abyss he came back from is pulling him down again, the glow of J'hon's eyes and his ever fading voice following after him.
"You should get some rest."
Kal's voice startled her, making her head snap upright from where she'd been leaning against the wall.
He looks the same as ever, dark hair, dressed in blue and red. Only the lines of worry creasing around his eyes show any real change in him.
She opens her mouth, ready to protest, but its an old routine now, and Kal opens his mouth, insisting, chastising before she can tell him she wants to stay here a while longer yet. "Diana."
Her lips close, blue eyes meeting blue eyes and she shakes her head. "He woke up."
"And J'hon isn't sure when in the next week that's going to happen again."
"But Kal I-"
The man of steel comes closer, dragging a seat over so he can speak with her at eye-level when he sits.
"Diana." He pauses, as if searching for words. "Look. I-I know what its like to screw up. Ok? Its happened to me, hell, its happened to all of us. All of us make mistakes at one point or another."
"I nearly killed him Kal. Even with Fate's magic I-what I've done to him. It could-"
"Bruce wouldn't want you hurting yourself like this."
Her face twists, and both of them know that his words don't make her feel any better.
His lips purse, half in sorrow, half in something else before he speaks again. "Diana. Go. Get yourself cleaned up, some food, and come back. Ok? I promise I'll stay here and call you if anything changes."
"Please Diana?" He's practically begging her with his voice. "If not for me, or for you for Bruce. Come on?" Its a low blow, they both know it, but they can both forgive him for it.
She finally nods, finally stands after hours, feeling the stiffness in her muscles and the soreness of her bones.
And Kal keeps his word, as she knew he would. He stays by Bruce's bedside without complaint for nearly two hours before she walks back in, bathed and fed. He tries to make some more small talk, but she admits to herself to not exactly being the best company. Her answers are short and clipped, merely smiling or nodding when she could get away with it. Not really hearing every word. Just enough to make it seem like it.
He may have noticed. And perhaps tomorrow she'll feel the urge to apologize for it. But for now, she's grateful when he leaves her to her quasi solitude.
The heart monitor drones on, its constant, rhythmic beeping a comfort to her. His heart still moved. Despite what she'd done he was still alive.
She wasn't sure when she falls asleep but she wakes, to someone else standing in the room.
It is a stranger, dressed in a suit, familiar in the same way a stranger you know you've seen before is familiar. Known yet alien.
She moves to stand, but finds her limbs bound, feels herself being pressed down by some unseen force into her chair, holding her still as she sucks in a startled breath.
"Now now Amazon. Thou should not exert thine self after such a terrible ordeal in the underworld. Sit. Do not mind me."
Even in a mortal guise she recognized his voice, his familiar, alien presence immediately becoming identifiable.
"Ares." She spat out his name like a curse.
"Yes. Me. Were you expecting perhaps my good uncle? Or his witch of a wife?" The god of war chuckled.
"You come to take me for invoking The Herald."
She saw his face twist with distaste. "Though I would like nothing more, my Uncle's interference has complicated such matters. No my dear, I come for this one."
Her stomach dropped into a pit, her heart beating a harsh staccato against her rib cage as Ares inhuman, burning gaze turned towards the sleeping Dark Knight.
She pulled and pushed, thrashed against whatever restraints held her fast as best she could, even trying to break the chair itself, but whatever magic held her down did its work well.
"Such a shame." He said, ignoring her struggles like one who ignored a chirping bird. "One of the greatest mortal warriors...crippled by you."
She grit her teeth, her muscles straining as she tried to break free.
"Such a man should be lauded and praised for his valor. The only one to ever return alive from the realms of the dead and instead he is reduced to a grotesque mocke-"
"What do you want?"
He smiles, and it is a cruel thing on an equally cruel face. "Why, I wish to return him to a state fit for a warrior." He answers blithely.
"And your price?"
He looks straight at her, and she knows the answer. Its obvious. He wants the amazonian princess that was denied her, Bruce's martial skill is only a bonus, perhaps just an afterthought.
Fickle, arrogant and prideful. The God of war always sought to right some slight, real or imagined.
"A price must be paid for his restoration, and who better to pay it than the wench who has crippled him?"
"This isn't about some sense of poetic justice." She spat. "So don't pretend otherwise."
"It isn't." He admits with a lazy shrug. "Mother, Artemis, Athena" He hisses out the last name. "They'll give much to see thee safe. And if they do not then I keep my prize. I stand to loose nothing and gain much."
"Means nothing." He interrupted. The glint of his teeth could be seen again. "Or have thee so recently forgotten that it was I who interceded my good uncles path into the mortal realm while Father and Poseidon's hands were tied? Olympus is in my debt as much as you mortals."
She could feel the words lodge in her throat. Ares was always held in check by the quick intervention of Hera and Zeus. But if because of his assistance they had to allow some...indulgences...
Was that why they were not here now? Were they looking on with impotent frustration?
"So what say you Amazon?" He stretched out his hand, and Diana found she could move again, her limbs released from whatever hold had gripped them. "Take my offer, and I will restore the good Bruce Wayne to his rightful place as a warrior fit for battle. Not some crippled lark."
She looked at his hand, thin digits that could curl into a cruel fist at a moments notice.
To take this bargain...it might mean the end of her if Hera could not free her in due time.
But Bruce...Bruce didn't deserve this...what she'd done...
To not be Batman anymore...it would destroy him as surely as remaining in the underworld would have destroyed her.
She lifted her hand.
"Don't you dare."
His voice was low, a dry rasp from an all too dry throat it made her jump, swiveling her head around to look at the barely focused eyes of a conscious Bruce Wayne.
"Ahh. Mr. Wayne" The God of war sneered. "Joining us? And here the Amazon was just getting ready to pry thee out of your sickbed."
"Thanks. I'm sure she can manage on her own. You can leave."
Ares features tightened. Bruce's disrespect would try anyone's patience, let alone someone as infamously short tempered as the God of War.
"Perhaps thine should be made aware that I-"
"Am the god of war? That you just offered to heal me of some crippling injury in exchange for Diana? Yes. I am aware. There's the door."
Now Ares impatience bloomed into a full fury across his face. "You insolent cur! I will-" He raised his hand, and in a flash of light the God of Olympus vanished from the room.
"I see thine son is as brazenly stupid as ever." One goddess spoke to another. "The terms thou laid out were fairly simple, 'Do not harm the mortals.' a child could have understood the message and yet-"
"His temper has always gotten the better of him." Hera answered. "But thou knew that." She smiled. "Which is why thine sent Aphrodite to wake the most infuriating man on the whole of the sphere to drive him to anger."
Athena shrugged, smiling innocently. "She has commented on her frustration regarding those two for some time. I may have perhaps let slip something about a good opportunity."
The sudden quiet in the room was almost as startling as the God's abrupt appearance itself; the two remaining occupants of the med bay blinking in confused bewilderment.
Finally, it was Diana that broke the silence, turning her eyes away from the expanse of the empty room to the Wayne Patriarch. "Bruce?"
He looked at her, mentally debating the merits of asking her to raise the watchtower's intruder alarm, for whatever little good they would do against an Olympian. "Princess."
They stared at each other, him waiting for her to break the silence, she herself not knowing exactly how to do so.
Finally...she settled on the thing most prevalent in her thoughts at the moment.
"Did you just essentially tell the God of War to 'fuck off'?"
He smiled. In a way that was just distinctly him. "No. I told him to 'Please fuck off.'"
Her mouth dropped open, incredulous, flabbergasted, utter disbelief shining through her whole face before her lips rose in a smile, the first one in what felt like years. Then she was laughing. Giggling and guffawing in pure histerics. She even snorted once, her chest burned with lack of air, her eyes stung with disbelieving tears.
Bruce watched her, his own softer smile lifting his features as he took it in. She was disheveled, dressed all a mess with clothes that looked like they'd more belong to the Flash than herself.
But she was here, safe, and as long as those two things were true she could dress like a hillbilly for all he cared.
When she managed to compose herself again, she saw that Bruce had his eyes closed, she wondered if he'd fallen asleep again. "Bruce?"
"Hmm?" He asked, tilting his head to her, but not bothering to open his eyes yet.
"Bruce...there's something you should know."
"I have a heart condition." He said, so blasé, and nonchalant she felt as though she'd been slapped.
This time, he did open his eyes. Gesturing towards the bag slowly dripping fluids into his system, and the other next to it. "Even if Ares hadn't said anything- Anti-arrhythmic drugs. J'hon set the IV low, so that tells me my condition is stable, just taking precautions, a defibrillator behind me. And the last thing I remember is your fist hitting right over my chest."
The silence between them was heavy to her, she wasn't sure if it was an accusation or just a statement, but the guilt welled up in her like some overflowing cauldron, threatening to choke her as the back of her eyes stung again in that now familiar pinprick of tears.
"Bruce...if I...I didn't kno-"
She looked back at him, ready to face whatever lay in his face, accusation, anger, resentment...
It was a palpable relief when all she saw in those blue eyes was simple forgiveness. "It's alright princess."
"Not its not." She snapped back, the guilt still clawing at her. "You went down into hell for me. You fought a God and I-I did-"
"And I'd do it all again." He interrupted her, as firmly as he could.
And Diana let her head fall, gratitude, stifled only by choking despair.
"Even if that means you might never be Batman again?"
She heard him shift on the bed. She pushed on, heedless. If he was going to hear this from anyone...it was going to be from her. "Your heart...it all but collapsed Bruce. The only reason you're even alive is because of Fate and his wife. They used every ounce of magic they could at the time to stabilize you. Even then...even with magic you nearly died. Your heart is so fragile and the damage...right now neither Fate nor J'hon are sure if they can ever pull you to a full recovery even if you were to get some kind of transplant. I-"
She stopped, feeling a hand bringing her face up, she looked at Bruce, who was leaning over the edge of the bed, a pained grimace over his features due to his position. But regardless he looked at her dead in the eye.
"Again." He recited simply. "In a heartbeat. And I'll beat down Ares door too if you're stupid enough to accept his deal."
And she didn't doubt it...
He pulled away, moving to lay back on his bed, and she followed, a sudden bout of reckless courage driving her forward, and the Amazonian's lips fell over his own.
Deep in the pits of the land of the dead. The witch known to mortals as Persephone smiled to herself, twisted, lilting and ambiguous.
"Good girl. The interesting ones never take the simple steps on their own. You should thank her boy. It is only when you fall; that you learn just how far you can fly"